Since Leardon Solutions is headquartered in San Diego, California, it might be interesting to review what makes San Diego an innovative city. San Diego is the eighth largest city in the United States with 1.3 million people but to the local resident it feels like a vibrant, active, and cohesive small city community. This small-city feel along with other success factors unique to San Diego create a successful and innovative product development and product design culture. Below are five reasons why investors, inventors, startup companies, and entrepreneurs should keep their eye on San Diego product development.
San Diego is well known for its year round mild climate. Charts from weather.com show that the lowest average daily low temperature of 48 degrees Fahrenheit occurs in December while the highest average daily high temperate of 77 degrees Fahrenheit occurs in August. Some critics might think that this weather would deter from creative product design, industrial design, or innovative product development but in fact the opposite occurs. The active outdoor nature of San Diego inhabitants has spawned a large cluster of design companies in the action sports businesses. In fact, the business accelerator San Diego Sports Innovators was formed specifically to address the needs of the sports business community in Southern California.
2. Educated Entrepreneurial Residents
According to the LAEDC Kyser Center for Economic Research 2011 report, 40% of the San Diego’s adult population has a bachelor’s degree or higher. This educated work force makes San Diego a hub of research and innovation in biotechnology, communications, and software development and fosters superb product design and development. Aside from this, San Diego is home to some world renowned universities including the University of California – San Diego, San Diego State University, and the University of San Diego. In fact, the UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering is ranked the 14 best graduate engineering school in the United States by the U.S. News & World Report. For those aspiring entrepreneurs, the SDSU Entrepreneurial Management Center which is part of the highly ranked SDSU Entrepreneurship Program provides a link between university curriculum and industry hands-on experience.
3. World-Class Product Design Engineers
San Diego is home to many technology, aerospace, medical device, and life sciences companies that have created a pool of engineers well-trained in diverse markets and technologies. The list of well known companies includes Qualcomm, Broadcom, Hewlett Packard, Illumina, Gen-Probe, Care Fusion, General Atomics, Goodrich Aerostructures, and ViaSat Inc., among others. This large cluster of high technology companies requires local support through nearsourcing to local engineering and manufacturing service companies to help companies execute their product design and development strategies. This tier of service companies exists throughout San Diego County and is crucial for the rapid commercialization of technology. These engineering and manufacturing companies service both large and small customers where companies such as D&K Engineering, Outsource Manufacturing, Pharmatek, and Invetech serve the large customers and Leardon Solutions, PDGOncore, and Novo Engineering tend to serve the smaller customers.
4. Regional Manufacturing Base
There is a myth that manufacturing has left the United States and only exists in lower wage countries. Fortunately, this myth is untrue and San Diego product development, industrial design, and product design companies are in close proximity to one of the largest manufacturing bases in the United States. As written in the report Southern California is the nation’s largest manufacturing economy, if the six counties of Southern California (Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura, San Bernardino, San Diego, and Riverside) were a state, they would be considered the third largest manufacturing “state” with 765,000 people employed behind California and Texas.
Not all San Diego product development companies require this highly-skilled U.S. manufacturing labor force. Companies that design and produce products with high labor and assembly content might need access to lower labor wage countries. When low labor wages are needed along with fast manufacturing lead times, lower shipping costs, and low inventories, companies in San Diego have access to the plethora of maquiladoras factories directly over the Mexico border. Companies are also only one day travel time from the enormous manufacturing base located throughout Asia which makes it feasible to utilize strategic outsourcing models that match the product needs with the skills in the region.
5. Startup Support
A local ecosystem of innovative companies developing products can only exist if there is a continuous influx of new companies with groundbreaking new technologies. Without the proper support and assistance base, this ecosystem will not flourish. San Diego is home to CONNECT, one of the world’s best regional programs that connects inventors and entrepreneurs with the resources they need to commercialize their technology. CONNECT is a non-profit organization that originated in San Diego over 20 years ago and has helped in the creation of over 2,000 companies.
San Diego is also home to many technology incubators. One of the leading incubator programs in the San Diego region is EvoNexus, a technology incubator hosted by the leading non-profit technology trade organization CommNexus.
Finally, this local ecosystem requires professional societies that create a venue for companies to network and discuss best practices as well as helps to accelerate and promote the local companies. The local San Diego chapter of the Product Development and Management Association (PDMA) is very active in the local community and holds many PDMA events that bring the local business and product design community together. Also, the non-profit organization CleanTech San Diego exists to promote San Diego as a world leader is clean technology development and implementation. These incubators, professional, and outreach organizations are instrumental in promoting San Diego as a leader in product development.
The weather, educated residents, world renowned universities, world class product design engineers, regional manufacturing base, and startup support are fundamental to successful and innovative product development in San Diego. Startup companies, inventors, entrepreneurs, and investors should look to San Diego as a hub for their innovative efforts.
Joseph Donoghue – Leardon Solutions